Skills minister Nick Boles has said he sees “no reason” why the CITB should not retain its existing apprenticeship levy to run alongside the government’s new system.
Speaking at the launch of the Federation of Master Builders’ Defusing the skills time bomb report, Mr Boles said: “Our position is very clear: if the industry supports the continuation of the CITB and its levy, then we will support that, but it’s ultimately up to the industry.”
The government announced last week that its new apprenticeship levy would come into effect from April 2017, but gave no detail on how it would interact with the existing construction industry levy.
Mr Boles said: “I certainly see no reason why there shouldn’t be a combination of the two, which ensures those companies that are paying the national levy aren’t paying twice.”
The role of the CITB under the new levy system has been called into question, but Mr Boles said that, as the CITB is a registered training provider, if employers are happy using it to commission training for them on their behalf, this should continue.
“In principle, it seems to me that if an employer thinks the CITB does a good job of commissioning training on their behalf, already gives them money to commission training on their behalf, and therefore wants to carry on using them to spend their apprenticeship vouchers – prima facie it seems obvious one should try to make that happen,” he said.
“The CITB is a registered training provider – every company will have to spend its vouchers with a registered training provider. The principle is one I support, so I’ll do my best to try to find a way.”
However, he warned that there was a “genuine issue” with European state aid rules and the apprenticeship levy.
As the levy is a “general tax” rather than a fully hypothecated tax, the use of the public money collected will be governed by state aid rules.
But the minister said the government has “plenty of time” and that he is “absolutely confident within the next month or two we’ll have a definitive answer on what we can go to”, in terms of a system for how vouchers can be used and spent.
The new levy will be set at 0.5 per cent, with employers paying the rate on all wages on their wage bill over £3m.
Mr Boles added that he hoped to see a “sea change” in apprenticeship training across industries, noting that cost and bureaucracy had often been major barriers to more firms taking on apprentices.
He said: “That’s an insight the construction industry had long before recognised, which is why you created the CITB and the construction industry levy.
“Our national levy is a learning from some of the lessons within your industry.”
CITB director of policy Steve Radley told Construction News last week: “The [CITB] levy will clearly need to adapt in light of the apprenticeship levy.
“It’s a challenging environment as we’ll need to secure agreement from levy-payers to continue to run a levy.”